Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Hooked Final Draft

Sometimes abuse leaves scars you can't see. 

Drops of water slid down the ends of my hair, making gentle impact on the fluffy tufts of my duvet. I could hear my roommates watching television in the living room.  

“Mandy,” he said, his voice echoing through my phone, suddenly serious.

“Yes?” I said with a nervous laugh, wondering what he would say. He’d started calling me on the phone every night before we went to bed. His voice was the last thing I heard before falling asleep, and I loved that.

“I like you.”

It was nice to hear him say it out loud.

“I like you too,” I said.

“No,” he paused. “I really like you.”

He didn’t say anything after that, so I told him I really liked him too. He was pleased, but his tone was still tight.

“It’s just...whenever I’ve really liked someone, I’ve always screwed it up. It never works out.”

“This time will be different,” I said with confidence. “You won’t screw it up with me.”

We said goodnight and I cuddled myself into the wall, my phone tucked under the covers as my favorite text from him flashed across the screen:

“Que suenes con los angeles.” (Dream with the angels)

We dated in tumultuous, unofficial cycles for sixteen months. He became everything to me. But I wasn’t enough for him, and that slowly became apparent. I never got that text from him again.

“I just don’t know, Mandy,” he'd say exasperatedly in the car. He kept his eyes on the steering wheel each time we had this conversation, then he’d soften and turn to me as he tried to explain why he needed more time. 

“I can’t keep doing this!” I’d exclaim, annoyed that he needed “more time” when he’d already had a year and a half.

“Then don’t,” he’d say, his cold, blank eyes staring out the window shield.

I’d bristle and deflate at the same time, until he’d quietly say:

“You deserve better than me anyway.”

That was the hook he loved to offer me. And oh, how I loved to attach myself to it. I would immediately feel guilty for pressuring him to make a decision, so I’d apologize. He’d tell me how hard commitment was for him, and I’d tell him I could wait, I didn’t mind. We’d make up and I’d climb the stairs to my apartment with an ugly heaviness that manifested itself in ripped out hair and bloodshot eyes reflecting in the bathroom mirror at four a.m. 

I always believed we could get back to the way it was; that the wonderful, kind man who made me feel cherished and alive would eventually re-emerge from the dullness in his eyes. I would fix what I did wrong, and he would stop being ashamed of me. 
So I kept getting back in his car; I kept ignoring his constantly buzzing phone; I kept ignoring the way his roommates looked at me with a mix of pity and sickening amusement; I kept ignoring the way he flirted with other girls; I kept ignoring the way my body shrunk into itself when I talked about him to my friends; I kept ignoring how much I missed talking to my mother; I kept ignoring how I hadn’t felt connected to God in months.

But a day came when I wasn’t allowed to ignore it anymore. Like the ancient prophet Lehi, I fell into a consuming sleep where I received a dream from God. While I wasn’t asked to leave Jerusalem in search of the Promised Land, I did wake up knowing my life was about to change. 

The dream began at the outdoor hot tub he and I went to in the evenings. I was running my fingers across the top ridge of his collarbone when I noticed something was coming out of it.

Saliva pooled in my mouth and my cheeks rippled with revulsion as I watched his body distort. Hundreds of slender bones began to rip through his skin, growing four inches long and taking form as the clicking, jointed legs of a tarantula.

I tasted metallic and pulled away in the water, repulsed by the squirming bones that continued to pulse back and forth underneath his chin. I pinched the skin on my upper eyelid to escape the grotesque scene, but my body wouldn’t wake up.

“Mandy, we need to talk,” he said.

I couldn’t stop staring at the bones.

“I’ll go grab my stuff,” he said as he climbed out of the water.

My mother appeared then. Her green eyes were so aware; they had the same vivid intensity my deceased grandparents’ eyes had when I’d seen them in previous dreams.

“Why don’t you see him for what he is?” she asked. “All of us,” she said pointing to my friends who I noticed were also in the pool, “see him. But you don’t.”

Then he was back. He went to shake my mother’s hand but he couldn’t; their hands wouldn’t connect. He walked away and motioned for me to follow.

“Don’t go with him,” she pleaded.

But I did.

We were walking to his car when I realized there was another woman with us. She was on his other side, an ethereal blonde like Galadriel in Lord of the Rings. 

“Who is that?” I asked.

“Oh, she’s with me,” he said as he kept walking.

I stopped. “I thought you wanted to talk?”

“I do, aren’t you coming?” he asked, turning around.

The woman looked back at me. She seemed to sense my confusion, then she said:

“I’ll always be with him.”

The dream slowed down. Her words confirmed a truth I had suspected but ignored for over a year. I knew there were other girls. But I always believed he would choose me in the end. 

I was wrong.

I ran from them until I reached the parking lot. I saw my mom and her car so I jumped in the driver’s side and locked the doors.

Then I screamed. A raw, carnal upheaval exploded out of my mouth and reverberated around the car with spectacular force. I couldn’t stop it, and I felt my jaw crack from the strain of the sound.

When it finally ended, my mom turned to me with her knowing green eyes and she smiled.

I woke shaking on the couch.

I didn’t want to acknowledge the dream. God’s given people dreams of warning for a long time, and it was frightening to realize I’d become one of them. Lehi’s dream prompted he and his family to move across the planet, leaving everything they knew behind. On a smaller scale, that was what God was asking me to do too; I had to untangle my life from this man and move on in search of what God wanted me to have.

It took me two weeks to accept the dream and act, and that meant not only ending my relationship but also my commitments that involved him. I’d revolved my life around him for so long that I didn’t recognize myself or my daily routine once he was gone. Not only had our relationship died, but it also felt like part of me had too.

But in the midst of the pain and the fear of who I would be without him, I started to become untangled. Each step sent me spinning, but it also slid the hook further and further out of my throat.

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